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Understanding the Impact of Relationship Disruptions

Understanding the Impact of Relationship Disruptions

Christian Schmitz, Maximilian Friess, Sascha Alavi and Johannes Habel

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Customer-salesperson relationship disruptions do not necessarily harm financial performance of a customer relationship; they can help performance in favorable conditions.

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Related Marketing Courses: ​
Business-to-Business Marketing; Salesforce Management

Full Citation: ​
Schmitz, Christian, Maximilian Friess, Sascha Alavi, and Johannes Habel (2020), “Understanding the Impact of Relationship Disruptions,” Journal of Marketing, 84(1), 66-87.

Article Abstract
Personal relationships between salespeople and customers are essential for the success of business-to-business (B2B) relationships and research has shown that a change of the salesperson can severely harm financial performance. Yet such interpersonal relationship disruptions also may have positive effects, by encouraging vitalizing reexplorations of the relationship. Using multilevel loyalty theory and relationship lifecycle theory, the authors offer a comprehensive conceptualization of potentially countervailing consequences of relationship disruptions. In particular, disruptions may have different effects on resale revenue (from previously sold products) versus new sale revenue (from newly sold products), contingent on both the history and expected future development of the relationship. Therefore, this study examines moderators on the firm-level relationship prior to disruption and salesperson relationship management afterward. Longitudinal data from 2,040 customers of an international business-to-business firm reveal that a disruption can increase overall performance by more than 29%, depending on the firm-level relationship before disruption and the new salesperson’s relationship management. Managers can use these findings proactively to evaluate and manage the risks and opportunities involved in relationship disruptions.


Special thanks to Kelley Gullo and Holly Howe, Ph.D. candidates at Duke University, for their support in working with authors on submissions to this program. 

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Johannes Habel is Associate Professor of Marketing, C.T. Bauer College of Business, University of Houston, United States.